What Is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
Carbon monoxide is produced when certain fuels do not burn completely. Common fuels are wood, gas, oil and charcoal. If carbon monoxide is breathed in, the blood is less able to carry oxygen around the body to all the vital organs. So what is carbon monoxide poisoning? Essentially, it means that the body becomes starved of oxygen, eventually dying. Understanding what is carbon monoxide poisoning is just one piece of the puzzle, however. What is far more important to know is that it almost always happens in the home. The most common sources include faulty boilers or central heating systems, fires and gas appliances. Also, people with open fires in their homes may have blocked chimneys or flues, which stops carbon monoxide from escaping. Poorly ventilated rooms are also a big culprit. One other common source is the exhaust gases of cars, which is one of the reasons why using exhaust gases is still a common way for people to commit suicide. Every year, several hundred people die of carbon monoxide poisoning and even more are left seriously ill because of it.
What Is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - Symptoms
Understanding the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning is very important to prevent deaths. When wondering what is carbon monoxide poisoning and what it feels like, you may find that mild poisoning is often described as the flu or food poisoning. People often have nausea or a headache, dizziness, abdominal pain, dry coughs and sore throats. As the poisoning becomes more severe, these symptoms become more severe. A very good clue that the symptoms are actually not the flu or food poisoning is that they are not accompanied by a fever or high temperature. When children have it, they often experience stomach upset symptoms, such as sever nausea and even vomiting.
Once you know what is carbon monoxide poisoning, you will also know that mild poisoning moves into severe poisoning. Here, the heart rate will start to beat irregular and very fast, people become confused and start to hyperventilate, they struggle to breathe and become very drowsy. As it progresses, they start to have seizures and lose consciousness, before eventually dying. One of the biggest problems with carbon monoxide poisoning is that symptoms can start to occur months after exposure. People may suddenly start to feel confused, have problems with coordination and perhaps even lose some of their memory, with short term memory being most commonly affected. In these cases, it is often very difficult to accurately pinpoint the source of the poisoning.
What Is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - Prevention
Preventing something from happening is always better than fixing it after the fact. Hence, it is important to be able to answer the question "what is carbon monoxide poisoning?", but is far more important to be able to stop it from happening in the first place. It is incredibly easy to prevent carbon monoxide from affecting people, and minimizing the risk of people getting poisoned is something we should all be involved in. There are a few safety tips that we should all follow at home once we know what is carbon monoxide poisoning. Firstly, make sure that if you have flues or chimneys and use your open fire, you have them checked regularly and have them cleaned. Also, any gas appliances in your home, including the heating system, should be checked yearly and any other maintenance should be done on time every time.
Next, it is possible to purchase cheap carbon monoxide alarms. There are two main types. First, there is the alarm that actually makes a sound. These are particularly good for people with some sort of visual impairment, but obviously do not work for people who are deaf. Also, if you install these alarms, you must check them yearly to make sure their batteries are still working. Often, certain municipalities have rules on where they should be placed in your home, which are useful guidelines to follow. Next, there are the visual alarms, which are essentially dots that you can place next to the appliances that could cause carbon monoxide poisoning. The main downside of using these is that you may sleep through a carbon monoxide release, as you must check them regularly to see if they have changed color.
Besides this, you should also learn to spot the warning signs. You now know what is carbon monoxide poisoning and you know how to prevent it. However, sometimes the inevitable happens, in which case you have to be able to recognize it and fix it as soon as possible. So, if you noticed that people around you - be that at home or in the office - suddenly start to develop the same flu-like symptoms, this is a strong warning sign. If you notice you have mild symptoms and they disappear if you are away for a longer period of time, like if you go on holiday, you will have spotted a major red flag. This is particularly true if you notice your symptoms return when you get back home. Also, if you find your symptoms seem to be seasonal, it could mean that your heating system, which you only use in the cold periods of time, is faulty and releasing carbon monoxide.
What Is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - Treatment
Before being offered treatment, it must first be determined that it actually is carbon monoxide poisoning. The exception here is if poisoning is very severe, in which case treatment will be provided immediately. A simple blood test will reveal whether there are high levels of carbon monoxide in the blood. Treatment starts by removing the patient from the area where carbon monoxide is released. Next, basic life support should be given, depending on how severe the poisoning is. Usually, they will be given oxygen and transferred straight to the nearest hospital for further treatment. Mild poisoning is reasonably easy to treat and most will make a full recovery with no ill side effects. However, around half of those who were affected by severe poisoning will have chronic health issues afterwards.